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Murray scores in subtle "Lost in Translation"

by Eric Melin on September 26, 2003

in Print Reviews

It’s rare when a movie can be this subtle, and yet also completely engrossing. Sofia Coppola has written and directed another superb tale of loneliness and alienation, following 1999’s excellent “The Virgin Suicides.”

I’ve read that Coppola wrote this movie with star Bill Murray in mind. And it’s easy to see why. At times, he seems to very closely resemble the movie star turned product-shiller Bob Harris that he plays so perfectly in this film. A career full of silly comedies and lots of bad movie scripts has made Murray pickier about his craft lately.

Harris, on the other hand, is like the old Murray, getting paid two million dollars to do multimedia ads for a Japanese whiskey and wondering why he’s not challenging himself as an actor.

Scarlett Johansson is stuck in the same hotel in Tokyo, being ignored by a photographer husband (Giovanni Ribisi) who is gone on location shoots for days at a time. The two form an unusual bond out of their shared isolation, but not a simply defined one. The director finds and keeps a slow pace throughout the film. It allows things to develop at a believable rate.

Finally Bill Murray has a movie that he can truly count as his own. Johansson is fantastic as well, but Murray’s face is the sympathetic heart of the movie. The funny scenes are not really funny like one would expect. Like last year’s “Punch-Drunk Love,” the comedy derives from the quirks of the characters as well as their bizarre situations.

Coppola has created an almost dreamlike quality onscreen that mirrors “The Virgin Suicides” in cinematography, but surpasses it emotionally.

The images speak volumes about what is really going on here. It’s not about what’s being said in “Lost in Translation,” because mostly it is a movie of looks between people.

Tokyo is a major character in “Lost in Translation.” Coppola has captured the absurd modern-ness of Tokyo and dropped two lost souls right in the fray. What follows is a touching story that will surely allow audiences to let their own experiences color the film.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of and writes for The Pitch. He’s former President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls, Ultimate Fakebook, and Truck Stop Love . He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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